Need prayer, advice and courage

(Patty Dann) #1

As part of doing the homework (conversational goal) connected with the Jesus Among Secular Gods, the person I chose to ask the questions, “What is your biggest objection to Christianity?” And “what do you think it would take for you to change your mind and become a Christian?” was (unknown to me) a professor of religious studies at UC Berkeley. He was hesitant to answer at first, but I assured him that I was truly interested to hear his answers. He began by focusing on the political right and their “lemming-like” devotion to President Trump. He further went on to state that there is idolatry in Christianity in that they worship the Bible. He related an incident where he was speaking as a guest lecturer at a Presbyterian Church and told the audience that they were worshiping their Bibles and to make a point threw the pulpit Bible against the wall. Then told them that because they had reacted in shock at what he had done, just proved his point. He further related that he does not believe there is only one true God. He stated that he worships nature and considers nature to be sacred.
He is also involved in helping the Hawaiian people protect their sacred lands and worship of Pele.
At a subsequent meeting I thanked him for sharing so honestly his thoughts and asked if he would be willing to listen to a CD by Ravi. He agreed so I gave him “What Happened After God’s Funeral.” He returned it with a note saying, “RZIM offers simplistic answers to complex theological questions.”
He also sent a link to a YouTube video about the problem of how geothermal plants are desecrating Hawaiian sacred forests and harming Pele, and asked my thoughts about it.
So—I haven’t responded yet because I’m not sure where to begin. Any thoughts would be most welcome!

(Ethan Thomas) #2

It seems to me like the note he included with the returning of the CD was little more than an intellectual retreat in order to avoid further dialogue with you on your line of inquiry. What answers did he ascertain as ‘simplistic’? Could he have not provided his own answers rather than conveniently shift the conversation to, of all things, geothermal plants in Hawaii?

(SeanO) #3

@pjdann Thank you for sharing that story. In fact, I had a similar experience when I was witnessing at Loyola in Chicago. I sat down across from a man and started to share Christ only to find out he was a theological professor at the university! Whenever I tried to engage him directly regarding the Gospel, he always very adroitly switched topics and began referencing theologians - some of them German with names I had never heard of - and quoting from them. He became very esoteric. We talked for about an hour, but for the most part he spent his time avoiding sin and salvation. We parted ways cordially.

I also attended an undergraduate school where the professors in the Christianity department taught the Bible was not historically accurate and Jesus was not the only way to God. I approached each of my professors privately and tried to converse with them on whether or not they believed Jesus was God and other similar questions - they were generally evasive and, similar to the professor at Loyolla, reverted to esoteric topics.

I once attended a chapel where these professors gathered and they were talking about the subject of hell. When it was mentioned they all laughed - I mean side splitting laughter. To them the idea of God as judge, or I honestly think of God in general, was only deserving of being mocked.

While I have always had cordial dialogues with professors who essentially mock Scripture - as people they are nice enough - the dialogue tends to go nowhere because in their hearts I think they despise the Biblical view of God. So I would honestly urge you to consider the advice in Proverbs:

Proverbs 9:8-10 - Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.
9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

If a person clearly has no fear of God in their hearts you should still love and pray for them and always be respectful. But perhaps you should not even attempt to correct them - you may only be heaping scorn from them on yourself. If you need to interact with him more for homework maybe just listen and ask good questions unless he shows any genuine interest in your viewpoint.

What are your thoughts? The Lord Jesus grant you wisdom and courage as you decide how to engage.

(C Rhodes) #4


In Genesis 1:26-28, among other scriptures, is the commandment of stewardship of the earth. Sin distorts the inference GOD meant for our care of His creation.

Because our hearts are not united with GOD we miss the intent of His hope for our dominion of the Earth. The greatest condemnation is evident in our treatment of one another. We think dominion means to conquer, destroy, rule, over one another. Is it any wonder that we get it wrong about the Earth?

The YouTube presentation is too narrow in its concern. The polytheistic worship of Pele falls short of the solution. Mostly because it does not get to the root of the problem for the Earth. It is not just one thing as in the protection of Hawaiian volcanic lands; the protection of the Earth will only be accomplished when the heart of mankind, finds its way back home to GOD. To save the planet the caretaker must first be saved.

Like anything in this World, the separation from GOD’s heart is driven by sin. What makes the Bible so crucial, is its place as a manual that keeps calling us back to GOD’s purpose in every aspect of our living. It is deserving of at the least the same consideration as a YouTube video.

We are human, that is code for a sinful nature. Even after returning to GOD we must daily commit ourselves to His purpose and His plan. Or, we just naturally get it wrong.

If for no other reason than that the sacrifice on the cross was purposed to return the heart of mankind back to balance, our focus must be on the redemption of mankind. When the caretaker is redeemed, all of the creation reaps the benefit.

The respect for the Earth the polytheistic practice seeks to promote becomes a matter governed automatically by the heart. Even caring for the Earth becomes an act that honors and glorifies GOD.

Again, the polytheistic practice does not get to the heart of the problem that occurs in a heart that is separated from GOD. Its focus is too narrow. Proper care of the Earth is not meant for the Earth, it is meant to honor GOD, not Pele or any other the 400 plus deities of the Hawaiian Islands. Or for that matter for the benefit of any one of the innumerable gods worshiped in the Earth.

If we can ever hope to see a balance returned to the Earth, the caretaker must be fixed.
Above all things as @SeanO advised, don’t be guilty of putting pearls before swine. Not everyone will choose GOD.

(Julia Bracewell) #5

@pjdann with regards to President Trump and lemming-like followers, I would bring up to him John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. I think its fair to say to him that real Christians, people who love Christ, will show that they are Christians by loving one another. Since he is likely reacting to the unloving actions of Trump that the right seems to be unbothered by, you can point out that he isn’t rejecting Christianity, but the actions of some Christians. Christianity itself teaches that love is the greatest ethic. I would acknowledge that he is right to be bothered by unloving actions of Christians, say that you are too! but add that he should look to actual Christian teaching and not just the actions of some. Does he reject the idea of loving everyone unconditionally? Probably not… and that’s the most Christian thing.

Hopefully that helps a little :slight_smile: I will say a prayer for you in this matter.

(Patty Dann) #6

Hi Julia, thank you so much for your helpful comment. Yes, I have considered mentioning the fact that many times things are said and done in the name of Christ that are contrary to His teaching. So this is one part of how I might respond to his objections.
Thanks again,

(Renee Yetter) #7

Patty, I am praying now for grace and wisdom for you. I think @SeanO hit it right on the head. We are all sinners, and while it would be nice to think that those of us who profess faith in Christ would do better than unbelievers, that is sadly not always the case. What we do have in common, even at our worst, is the ability to appeal to accountability before God. This won’t get us anywhere with someone who does not believe and has no fear of God. Our recourse in engaging them is to pray that the Holy Spirit will be at work, and that we conduct ourselves in such a way that they see something is different in our lives. Aside from God at work, that is maybe the only way we can get a fair hearing?

Peace to you as you navigate this!

(Patty Dann) #8

Hi Sean,
A few questions I might ask him in response to his characterization of RZIM as offering simplistic answers would be: Is it not possible to have adequate (though not exhaustive) knowledge of God? Is complexity a prerequisite to sufficient comprehension? And could you be a bit more specific regarding the simplistic answers given?

Also a little more “back story” as to how this person was chosen to answer these questions. A few years ago I decided to put “shoe leather” to the verse that says, “seek first the kingdom of God…” So I decided a good way to do this would be to start the day with prayer, putting on the armor of God before going out to the events and circumstances of the day. And secondly, to try to find a way to leave a tract, book, cd, dvd or actually start a conversation about spiritual matters every morning. There is a popular hiking trail around a natural wetlands preserve near my home. So I decided to start walking this trail every morning and get to know some of the “regulars” on the trail.
So there are about 8 people that I’ve met and we chat briefly on our way around the trail. I have been praying for all of them for opportunities to share the gospel. So—a friend and I were meeting together and going through the Jesus Among Secular Gods DVDs/study guide. On the morning of our scheduled meeting, I still hadn’t completed the conversation goal and in a bit of a panic headed out the door to walk the trail and asking God who I should ask the “conversation-starter questions.” About 2 minutes later I saw one of the trail regulars approaching, so I said a quick prayer for courage and after greeting him told him I was taking a class on worldviews and needed to interview someone and would he be willing to be my “victim—er—I mean interviewee”…
He laughed then said, “well that depends upon what the questions are.” So I asked the questions, What is your biggest objection to Christianity? And what do you think it would take to change your mind and become a Christian?
He was a bit hesitant to answer my questions because (I didn’t know this about him) he was a retired professor of religious studies at UC Berkeley and held to pantheistic views. I assured him that I was truly interested in hearing his answers.
And so he openly shared that he worships nature, doesn’t hold to an exclusive means of salvation, thinks Christians worship the Bible as an idol. So on a subsequent meeting (as previously shared) I gave him the RZIM CD What Happened After God’s Funeral.
Then he shared a link to a Utube video on Pele and asked for my opinion.
So this is my response to Jim: (via email)
…So I have a few thoughts and clarifying questions re the Pele video.
Would you consider yourself to be more pantheistic (loosely): everything in nature is devine; or panentheistic (again loosely): the Devine being inhabits and also transcends and is outside of nature?

Also from your perspective (worldview) how would you explain or answer these four ultimate questions:

  1. Origins—why is there something rather than nothing?
  2. Meaning—what gives meaning to all the particulars—is there an infinite reference point that gives the finite value/meaning?(Sartre)
  3. Ethics—how do you determine the ought from the ought-nots? Do you believe absolutely that there are no universal absolutes?
  4. Destiny—is history (in general) “going somewhere” or is it an ultimately unrelated series of meaningless events? And on a more personal level—does each person have an eternal destiny (heaven to be sought or hell to avoid)?
    Regarding Pele
    My thinking is that nature is to be nurtured, to be studied and put to good use while avoiding exploitation to over use/depletion (natural healing properties of plants/herbs; developing and putting to use more efficient, less polluting energy sources and also do this in such a way as to as much as possible protect existing natural terrain/conditions).
    I would also respect the rights of others to believe and worship in the manner of their sincerely held beliefs.
    I also believe that truth excludes irregardless of sincerity or duration (from antiquity to recent). All beliefs (worldview) including my own should be open to questioning to the tests of:
    Truth: do beliefs conform to reality (regardless of personal preferences)?
    Coherence: do they fit together as a whole?
    Consistency/ live-ability: can these be lived out consistently across all of life (not compartmentalized)?
    Looking forward to learning more of your thoughts.

Jim’s response:
The questions you raised could be the subject of lengthy books/essays and have been debated since Adam and Eve. I prefer the simplicity of a walk at Shollenberger.
See you when our paths cross.

So it seems he is open to further conversation. Our exchanges have been courteous…
Please keep praying for me and any more insightful comments are very welcome!

(SeanO) #9

@pjdann May the Lord give you wisdom to engage and more opportunities to encounter this fellow on the trail. If I were you, I would consider taking a bit more of a focused approach and, if you have not already done so, let him explain in detail why he is attracted to pantheism / nature worship. Then, you could explain why you believe Christianity meets the same felt need in a more true fashion. Perhaps you could also discuss Bible ‘worship’ further. Here are a few questions I might consider:

What first attracted you to pantheism and nature worship? How do you practice that in your own life?

Has there ever been a period in your life when you tried praying to the God of the Bible or keeping the Bible’s teachings?

Did you know that in John 5:39 Jesus actually rebukes the Pharisees because they thought they could achieve salvation through their knowledge of the Scriptures? Christians do not worship the Bible - they worship the God who revealed it. If the Bible really is God’s fullest revelation of Himself, should we not want to know the God who wrote and devote ourselves to its teachings?

The Lord bless your conversations with all you meet along this hiking trail.

(Patty Dann) #10

Hi Sean,
Thank you I think that is great advice—to put the ball in his court and have him explain the attraction to pantheism.

Love the help and advice and prayers of all who have responded.